Man City made it four wins in a row with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Bournemouth. A first half goal from Raheem Sterling and an own goal by Tyrone Mings after the break settled an entertaining game. On a fresh, blustery evening on the south coast, City arrived at The Vitality Stadium looking to move into second spot and close the gap on leaders Chelsea to single figures. Pep Guardiola made just one change from the side that beat Swansea 2-1, with Bacary Sagna replacing Gael Clichy – Fernandinho took on left-back duties. The team did the job - the only negative point on the night was Gabriel Jesus' early withdrawal with what looked like an ankle injury.
What happened? The match began at a frenetic pace – Cherries boss Eddie Howe had demanded his side show the same spirit that had seen off Liverpool and very nearly Arsenal on their own soil. The hosts chased down and pressed with energy and pace in the opening stages but the Blues kept their cool and knocked the ball around sweetly. Kevin De Bruyne had City’s first chance on four minutes, but the Belgian mis-hit his shot when well placed. Then David Silva played a sublime pass over the Bournemouth defence only for Sterling to chest the ball a tad too hard and see the ball run harmlessly into the arms of goalkeeper Artur Boruc. City were dealt a blow on 13 minutes when Gabriel Jesus, who had landed awkwardly from an attempt at goal a few minutes earlier, was forced off and was replaced by Sergio Aguero. With 20 minutes on the clock, Bournemouth should have gone ahead. Jordan Ibe drove towards the City goal before playing a neat one-two with Joshua King – but as he attempted to round Willy Caballero, the Blues’ keeper made a superb sliding tackle to deny the former Liverpool man. Then Leroy Sane skinned his marker before teeing up Sterling whose shot hit Boruc and then the post – moments later Yaya Toure curled a shot from 20 yards just inches wide.Finally, just before the half-hour mark, City went ahead – though it was the start of 60 crazy seconds at either end. First, Sane, who had been tormenting the Cherries’ full-back mercilessly, sent in a cross that was deflected towards Sterling and the City winger made no mistake with a tap-in from close range. The travelling Blues had barely stopped celebrating when Bournemouth were suddenly level – or so it appeared – but as the home fans celebrated Josh King’s ‘goal’, the referee pulled play back for a foul on John Stones by King in the build-up. The Blues pressed for a second before the break, but Bournemouth were very much in what was turning out to be an absorbing contest. Bournemouth flew out of the blocks again after half-time and for long periods, the Blues were forced back in their own final third. It seemed that eventually the hosts’ pressure would result in an equaliser, roared on by a passionate home crowd, and on 65 minutes they almost did draw level as Harry Arter struck Benik Afobe’s shot goalwards with power, but the excellent Caballero was equal to it, diving smartly to his right to push the ball around the post. That proved to be a pivotal moment because within three minutes, City had doubled their advantage, as Sterling wriggled past his marker inside the box and his low cross was turned in from a couple of yards out - early indications suggests it will be credited as a Tyrone Mings own goal. It was the breathing space the Blues desperately needed and it all but sealed the three points. Sane jinked past two defenders with six minutes left and struck the crossbar as the young German was denied the goal his performance merited but perhaps a three-goal cushion would have been harsh on a hard-working and honest Bournemouth side.
Key moments Undoubtedly the two excellent saves by Caballero - one in each half - the first the type of tackle that would have made Bobby Moore proud and the second at a crucial stage of the second-half. On each occasion, the Blues went on to score shortly after.
Star man With a goal and an assist, Raheem Sterling was deservedly voted the City Matchday App's star man. Confidence mixed with skill and hard-work, Raheem is in terrific form at the moment,
What it means City move up to second spot in the Premier League, now eight points behind Chelsea. There's still plenty of work ahead but the Blues have now won four on the bounce.
What's next? City travel to Huddersfield Town on Saturday for the FA Cup 5th round tie at the John Smith's Stadium - then it's Monaco in the Champions League the following Tuesday.
AFC Bournemouth (0): Boruc, Francis (Mings 21), Smith, Cook, Daniels, Arter, Wilshere (Afobé 45), Ibe (Pugh 75), Surman, Fraser, King.
Manchester City (2): Caballero, Sagna, Sterling (Nolito 90), Kolarov, De Bruyne, Sané, Silva, Stones, Fernandinho, G Jesus (Aguero 14), Touré (Otamendi 70).
Goals: Sterling 28, Mings (pp) 69
Referee: Neil Swarbrick . Bookings: Yaya Toure 10, Sterling 55, Sané 65 (Man Ciy); Fraser 24, Arter 70 (Boro)